Rural Mobility Plan
- According to the Transit Cooperative Research Program sponsored by the Federal Transit Administration, the benefits of coordinating transportation often include one or more of these outcomes:
- Access to a greater level of funding and to more funding sources;
- Access to the specialized expertise of a wide variety of transportation providers and human service agencies;
- Access to state agency expertise and support;
- Lower trip costs for riders
- Lower trip costs for agencies
- Transportation services provided in areas formerly without service;
- Transportation services provided to riders formerly without transportation service (this allows some people to remain independent in their own homes for a longer time than would otherwise have been possible, thus reducing both personal and social costs of unnecessary institutionalization);
- Reduced vehicle travel—less duplication of services;
- Greater productivity—more riders per vehicle over the entire service period;
- One-stop shopping for customer access to transportation services available in the community;
- Higher quality transportation services (i.e., safer, more timely, more responsive, and more reliable);
- Better access to jobs, health care, and shopping;
- Increased activity for local businesses;
- Broader community support for maintaining and expanding transportation services.
History: Florida’s Heartland Rural Mobility Planning Effort
In 2003, the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) at the University of South Florida began a planning effort to identify and address the mobility challenges within a rural area in south central Florida designated as a “Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern.” The study was completed in August 2005 and included 17 recommendations within five core service areas including: low income/employee needs; mobility options for seniors; mobility planning; marketing services; and land use and development.
Through a newly developed partnership with Enterprise Florida, Inc. and the Florida Heartland Rural Economic Development Initiative, Inc. (FHREDI), a summit was held on December 7, 2005. The summit included FHREDI board members; local government officials; members of the economic development community, including major employers and developers; advocacy groups; and state agency representatives.
FHREDI and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) agreed to the mutual implementation of the recommendations contained in the original plan, including the development of a Heartland Rural Mobility Plan by CUTR.
The Heartland Rural Mobility Plan effort is a comprehensive multi-jurisdictional planning effort that:
- Includes very significant public participation plan;
- Outlines a strategic approach to meeting the mobility needs of the area, including employment transportation;
- Provides a sound business foundation for the resulting mobility program;
- Includes a finance and implementation plan;
- Meets the mobility needs of the Heartland area, especially within the economic development and land use framework; and
- Recommends a governing structure that could include a regional mobility entity.
A project team has been put together that includes a diverse advisory committee, representatives from the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA), FDOT, FHREDI and CUTR. The coordination and cooperation of regional economic development interests and significant public involvement in the development of mobility options for a rural area is an anomaly and will be noteworthy for other rural regions across the country.*
* Authors: Jay A. Goodwill and Lisa Staes, University of South Florida, Tampa. Publication Date: 2008 Source: TRB Publications Index http://pubsindex.trb.org/view.aspx?id=899168
The TRB Publications Index contains over 41,000 papers, articles, and reports published by the Transportation Research Board, Highway Research Board, Strategic Highway Research Program, or the Marine Board from 1923 to date.
To Date: Florida’s Heartland Rural Mobility Plan
The Plan (hyperlink to a copy of the actual Plan) has been written and made available to the public.
The first public transportation project was identified and funded: Clewiston to Belle Glade Community Bus Route.
The Community Bus Route is a very important community bus route in an area rich in history but poor economically. The Clewiston-Belle Glade (FL) community bus route is an educational, medical, recreational, shopping and employment lifeline for its approximately 1,000 passengers a month in Palm Beach County, Florida.
Currently, the service is being operated by Good Wheels, Inc., a non-profit provider, through an arrangement with FHREDI and the Lake Okeechobee Regional Initiative (LORI). The service operates a mid size (20 seat) passenger van on a seven day a week basis, providing 10 hours of service on weekdays and nine hours of service on Saturday and Sunday. They experience overcrowding on many trips and would like to operate a second bus and provide additional service if funding can be located.
The annual cost of operating the single-van service thru Good Wheels is $168,000 annually. The Florida Department of Transportation has provided grant funding of up to $84,000 annually, providing there is a local match for the other 50% funding. Currently the service has raised $31,826 in local match, coming from Hendry County, the City of Clewiston, the Quantum Foundation and the Collins Center. Palm Beach County had to terminate their funding of this program during the FY09 budget cuts. The bus route’s cost effectiveness, as well as it ridership performance, are comparable to peer transit routes and services in Florida.
The economy is very difficult in the rural REDI (Rural Economic Development Initiative) areas. In April 2010, the unemployment rate for Clewiston in Hendry County was reportedly* 13.3% of the labor force of 17,800. The unemployment rate in the City of Belle Glade in western Palm Beach County is reportedly* 41%. Many of the riders cannot afford any other means of transportation. The importance of sustaining a regional bus route has been clearly demonstrated in the Heartland Rural Mobility Plan. One of the nine service recommendations made by the plan is for the continued funding of the Clewiston – Belle Glade Community Bus Route.
FHREDI, Palm Tran and LORI organizations are working hard to ensure funding for continued operation and future growth of this service. We would like to work with you to develop a long-term public/private partnership funding strategy for the Clewiston-Belle Glade Community Bus Route. Will you please consider a three year joint venture with FHREDI to provide this much-needed community service to the residents of The Glades and Clewiston?To make a donation, please email us, or call FHREDI at 1-800-620-3602.